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A crowded house is a phrase we're using to describe our church's small group ministry.

It is a term that reminds us of the time when Jesus met in someone's home and a sick man tried to see Jesus, but it was too crowded; they literally had to tear the roof off to get to the Lord.

It also is a term taken from a church in Sheffield England that the leadership of Mercy Hill admires--the church's name is actually "The Crowded House."

In our case, here in South Jersey, we see crowded houses as groups of people meeting regularly in one another's homes to focus on the four rhythms of story (learning God's Word and our place in it), celebration (sharing meals and life experiences together), service (showing mercy to those in need around us), and spiritual formation (holding one another accountable in small, same-sex groups).

A crowded house offers the dynamics of a smaller learning environment for people to learn about God, God's story in the Bible, and their part in it. It also offers an environment where people are able to actually learn together, rather than being in isolation.

A crowded house isn't merely a learning community, though. It is a living community.

A meal offers a regular context for people to share life together, to live out the commands of Jesus (love God, love one another) together, and to bless and be a blessing to one another.

As the mission of Mercy Hill is to reach the lost through authentic Christian living, a crowded house presents a context in which authentic Christian living can take place. It is a significant part--a primary part--of what we mean by "church."

In these places, we are able to include, and show love to, those in whose lives God is at work.